In the aftermath of September 11, 2001 there was much discussion on the subject of evil. While most people agreed that it exists, there was a strong opposing voice, especially from the world of academia. However, in the light of the recent killings conducted by ISIS (or ISIL) as well as the kidnapping of teenage girls in Nigeria and other atrocities committed by Boko Haran, most of us agree that evil does exist.
DOES EVIL EXIST?
When we turn to the Bible we learn that evil not only exists but that it originates in a personal force described by Isaiah as the Day Star, son of Dawn (Isaiah 14:12). This doesn’t mean that God created evil. Rather, it tells us that there was and is the potential within God’s good work for evil to arise. At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, he was tempted and supremely tested by this Day Star, Satan, who attempted to use all his deceitful craft to break the relationship between Jesus, the unique Son of God, and God, by getting him to disobey God.
The temptations of Jesus show us that we live in a world where two kingdoms are in conflict – the rule of God and the attempted rule of Satan. Indeed Satan (which means accuser) keeps a record of all our failures before God. And because we have failed to keep God’s commands – to love God and to love one another – he insists the penalty must be paid.
CS Lewis brilliantly portrays this idea in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Edmund had betrayed Peter, Susan and Lucy, and Aslan too. The witch demanded Edmunds’s life. “He has broken the laws of the deep,” she insisted. “He is mine. His life is forfeit.”
And, in his justice, God cannot refuse Satan’s demands for human life.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL
However, the good news for us is that Jesus not only demonstrated his greater power over the forces of evil, but he found a way to address Satan’s prosecution. In Colossians 2:15, Paul says that when Jesus was crucified, he disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them… Augustine, the Bishop of the North African port of Hippo spoke of the cross as the devil’s mousetrap. Through his death Jesus has provided the just means of our forgiveness. God’s righteousness has been perfectly satisfied once and for all.
When we pray, But deliver us from evil we see that there are at least two levels of meaning. We are praying that God might deliver us from the temptations of the evil powers – for Satan prowls around us like a lion (1 Peter 5:8). We also are asking for God’s protection against the evils of this world. But there is something else we tend to overlook: we are asking God to deliver us from the prosecution that Satan will attempt to bring against us on the final day.
The more I have thought about these themes the more I consider that Thomas Cranmer had this in mind in the prayer for God’s forgiveness that we find in the Communion Service:
Almighty God,… have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins… (BCP).
Yes, we need God’s forgiveness. But we also need to be delivered from all the charges that stand against us.